12/27/12

Episode 4 Released – Quick Facts

***This post may contain minor episode 4 spoilers, so you might want to read the episode in full before continuing. ***

Episode 4 of The Scourge dropped on Monday night! Hope all of you received the update. Please let me know what you think once you have read it. It helps a lot to have your feedback, both positive and constructive. And if you have enjoyed the book thus far, I would be grateful for any positive reviews on The Scourge Amazon page.

In case any of you are curious about some of the subjects covered in episode 4, I thought I would share some interesting facts that I discovered during my research. I’ll release one topic per post for a few posts.

Today, bears.

“Why is Edward so scared of a Bear?” Yeah. This is why.

  1. Some adult bears reach ten feet in length and five feet in shoulder height.
  2. Bears can weigh between 220 and 1,400 pounds. (Yes, they can weigh so much, you need a comma in the number) And for our European friends, that’s 100 – 635 kg.
  3. To give you a little perspective on that last number: A fully loaded mini-cooper weighs about 2,500 lbs. So, a fully grown brown bear can weigh two-thirds as much as a mini-cooper. Now, imagine two-thirds of a mini-cooper leaping and slamming into you. Okay, the analogy kind of sucks. But bears are damn heavy.
In my next post, I’ll talk about relics and make terrible Smart Cart analogies.

 

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12/24/12

Print Cover Reveal – The Scourge

Happy day.

47North just sent me a full-cover mock-up for The Scourge. This includes the back cover and spine, and will be used for the print version that will be available in February.

It billows with awesomeness, and I am thrilled with it!  Have a look:

The Scourge’s kick-ass print cover!

As you can see from the back cover text, this was taken from the Latin translation of The Scourge. Okay, not really. It’s just dummy text (Lorem Ipsum text, for that graphic designer street-cred). What do you guys think? Leave me a comment and let me know. Thanks!

12/17/12

Guest Post – Preston Ray – Newtown, Connecticut

Hi everybody. My good friend and fellow writer, Preston Ray, lives in Sandy Hook, as do I. Anyone who lives here has been shattered by what happened in our town. There is no escape from the emotional impact. I am not yet ready to put my thoughts to paper silicone.But Preston sent me an eloquent reaction to the event and to the tragedy tourists that seem to have invaded our home. I am proud to publish his sentiments.

An open letter to the gentleman taking pictures yesterday in Newtown
By Preston Ray

Yesterday you were here, with the out of state plates on your car. Taking pictures on your cell phone like this town’s pain was a tourist attraction. I fancifully wondered if you were going to buy a Christmas tree while you were in the area. (Maybe on Christmas day while gathered around the tree celebrating peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind you will show those pictures to your loved ones and brag about how you took the trip here?)

You should not think of what happened as my town. That tragedy is not Newtown.

If you came to visit me in Sandy Hook, you would see that Newtown is where I can take you to the CH Booth library and show you all the historical exhibits. Where you can buy a rubber duck at a local Lions club charity event and cheer as it “races” against others down a stream.

The Annual Sandy Hook Ducky Race, for Charity

You can go to the huge flagpole in the middle of the biggest intersection in town where we proudly fly the American flag (and ever since a car hit it in the late 70s we argue back and forth if we need to mar the sight by having traffic lights installed there).

The (in)Famous Newtown Flagpole

Where you can go out to Rams Pasture and watch the annual lighting of the holiday tree. Where for two dollars (and there was a lot of angst when it had to go up from one dollar) you can watch a movie in the town hall on Saturday night.

You could go out on a boat across Lake Zoar (because almost every time we have visitors, one of our neighbors who owns a boat offers to take us out) and hear my neighbor and me debate if the fries are better at Burgeritoville or the Lake Zoar Drive In (Lake Zoar Drive In of course!). Or come along as I take my dog for a walk down to the lake or over to the Paugusset State forest.   We’d have to stop, tho, if any of the neighborhood children, some of whom attend Sandy Hook Elementary School, want to say hello and pet the dog…because even though they probably won’t remember my name I guarantee you they’ll remember the dog’s). You might get your hair cut at the local barbershop and listen to the men joke about how the (mostly…even now in the 21st century) women organizing children’s trick-or-treating on Main Street show a level of strategy and tactical execution that would shame the generals who planned the invasion of Normandy.

Lake Zoar Drive-in.

Our First Selectwoman (because we don’t have a mayor, we have a First Selectperson, that’s how we roll in this New England town, homies…) Patricia Llodra has said, “We are a strong and caring place… we will find a way to heal.” And she is right. We will find ways to support the people who are supporting those who are hurt the most. The town of Monroe has opened up Chalk Hill School for us and I am sure in the days to come the neighboring towns will be there for us just as we have always been there for each other in the past. Connecticut and America will be there for us. Even from places as far away as Brazil, Baghdad and Estonia people are reaching out to express their support and compassion. So I know we will come together as a community and with the help of the world, come back.  Not better, but wiser and stronger.  So when you’re home and looking at the pictures you took on your cell phone, that’s how you should think of us in Newtown.

 

12/10/12

The Scourge – Episode 3

Episode 3 comes out tomorrow. It’s a good one, I think. In which Edward leads his army into battle and then faces execution by a mad king. In the spirit of Episode 3, here are some images from modern-day Hadleigh, Leigh (Lighe), and Rayleigh.

What’s left of Hadleigh Castle

Pictured above are the ruins of Hadleigh Castle. The castle is perched on a hill overlooking Old Leigh, and has such a wonderful feel to it. A feeling of power and tranquility and invulnerability. You can just imagine how magnificent it once was.

Hadleigh Castle, as it once was.

That’s what the castle would have looked like in Edward’s day, after an extensive renovation project by Henry III.

The Great Hall

That square area in the mid-ground is the remains of the Great Hall where Edward’s imaginary meeting with Sir John would have taken place. Just beyond the tower, in the distance, is a view of Old Leigh (Lighe).

The Thames Estuary at low tide, at Old Leigh.

This is the Thames at low tide, just off the shore of Old Leigh. The French ships in my story landed here. I’m fairly confident these three ships aren’t French.

Hadleigh Castle, with Old Leigh in the distance.

This is Old Leigh today, at low tide. It’s come a long way from the sleepy little village it was in Sir Edward’s day.

Moving on to Rayleigh. This is Rayleigh Motte, the hill where the tower once stood. During Sir Edward’s days, there probably wouldn’t have been much left of the castle. I chose to extend Rayleigh’s life a few decades in the story, although it was nothing but a “dung-pit” when Edward finds it.

Motte and Bailey

Motte to the left, bailey to the right. You can still walk the entire castle grounds at Rayleigh Mount, although nothing is left of the stone tower or the buildings.

Rayleigh Castle, how it was

That was how the castle would have looked in its prime.

 

Church on the hill

St. Clement’s church sits on a hill in Leigh-on-Sea. It is the church that Edward talks about and that he and his knights ride onto. There is a rumor that this church was built using stones from Hadleigh Castle, but I doubt it. King Edward III had made major renovations to Hadleigh in the late 14th century and the castle wasn’t sold for building materials until the mid-16th century. St. Clement’s was built sometime circa 1400, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it might have been around in 1385, when Sir Edward came by.

If you are reading The Scourge, I hope enjoy this episode. It’s one of my favorites. And I hope these photos help flesh out the world that Edward and his knights are traveling through.

 

 

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12/2/12

Learning to Right…uh Write

When I started my writers’ group about three years ago, it was mostly as a favor to the all the other writers in my geographical area. You see, I was a *professional* writer. My career included a three-year stint as a reporter and long stretches as a freelance writer and magazine editor. I had a page-one feature article in the Boston-freakin’-Globe, for Pete’s sake. So, in an act of charity, I decided to allow other writers to read my fiction.

Am I not a merciful?
AM I NOT A MERCIFUL!!?

I promised myself I would be a father figure. When others discussed my work, I would politely ignore the tears of adoration in their eyes. I would be humble and graciously downplay their praise.

When finally it was time for my work to be reviewed, I scheduled another story for that night too. Because, really, what was there to critique in my work? There was only so much gushing I would allow myself to take.

The night arrived and the group gathered. I waved my hand in a Pope-like manner, allowing the critique to begin.

And they tore me apart.

“Do you realize that you have three pages of a guy riding a horse?” one of the writers said. “There’s no talking or anything. Just a guy. And a horse. And bushes and shit.”

I smiled. Ah, petty jealousy. I love it.

“Yeah, I cut most of that out too,” said another. “You’re story really doesn’t begin until page six.”

The night wore on. Page after page after page of suggestions. A few compliments sprinkled in here and there, but mostly constructive critisicm. This wasn’t petty jealousy. This was bad storytelling and bad writing.

“Do you realize that you have three pages of a guy riding a horse?” one of the writers said. “There’s no talking or anything. Just a guy. And a horse. And bushes and shit.”

I smiled. Ah, petty jealousy. I love it.

It didn’t matter that I had spent half my life writing professionally. It didn’t matter that I read more books in 7th grade than most people read in a decade. It didn’t matter that I placed second in a state-wide short story competition in college. It didn’t even matter that I went to school for journalism and creative writing.

Writing good fiction is, quite possibly, the hardest thing anyone can ever do.  (With the possible exception of forcing yourself to sit on a really, really cold toilet seat.) When you are writing fiction, you are having a hand at God’s work. Designing and creating and breathing life into something that is only an idea. Just wisps of thought that must be turned into reality. What a colossal pain in the ass! (The creating, not the toilet seat.)

Sometimes I hold my bowel movement for days.

Despite the magnitude of the task we take on, there is no room for arrogance when you are learning to write. As the Tao Te Ching states, “You will never be a great writer until you understand that you are a terrible writer.” Okay, the Tao never said that, but it should have.

“You will never be a great writer until you understand that you are a terrible writer.”

I read a popular blogist’s post once that told people they don’t have to write every day if they can’t find the time. That’s the most destructive thing anyone can say to aspiring writers. We are all looking for reasons not to write. Excuses. And he gave his readers permission to not take their craft seriously.

The truth is, if you want to succeed at anything, you do it *every day.* You work on it harder than anything else in your life. Because you can bet there is someone else out there working harder. If you can’t find time to make writing a priority, then maybe you really don’t want it.

It has been three years since that first writers’ group session. Three years of hard toil and hundreds of thousands of written words. And you know what? My group is still tearing me apart.

Their criticisms are smaller now, thankfully. More nitpicky. They talk mostly about things that fall into my blind spots. Things that can only be seen from another perspective. Which is as it should be.

My writing mechanics have improved. My storytelling and pacing have improved. My dialog, always my strength (I think), has improved as well.

Am I a great writer now? No. I won’t make the mistake of thinking that again. But I recently signed a publishing contract with 47North for my novel, The Scourge. It’s a sign, that I have improved, and a nod to the writers’ group that tore down my pretenses and allowed me to become a decent novelist.  They were the ones doing me the favor.

And I thank them.